This is not quite the same as the whole complaint that government doesn’t work, but still, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offers something in a lesson about the moral of the story. The Kentucky junior has been working hard for a while, now, trying to find a way to circumvent the Bluegrass State law prohibiting him from running for both President and U.S. Senate. And in August, he found a way, convincing the state’s GOP to hold an extraneous, costly caucus that Mr. Paul will pay for.
And while the question of his procedural genius seemed well-enough established in the 2012 cycle when Rand Paul’s created a competitive presidential contest by maneuvering in the caucuses, the current contest presents its own challenges. The scion of fake libertarianism struggles to break five percent support, and has averaged less than one percent support in polls released over the last week. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suspended his campaign on the eve of Iowa numbers putting him ahead of Rand Paul, and while the punditry marvels at another establishment candidate and Beltway favorite languishing in the polls, there is another facet of the Rand Paul Show worth attending:
Paul’s shallow support in Congress mirrors the kind of support his presidential campaign has earned in GOP primary polls. That has prompted some concerns to be raised about his strength in what should be a safe re-election race for a Republican.
“Sen. Paul earned a lot of goodwill with his efforts last year to help Republicans win back the majority and I suspect party leaders have wanted to give him some deserved leeway” for how long to carry on both campaigns, said Brian Walsh, a Republican operative who has worked on House and Senate races for more than a decade. “But there’s no question that every seat will be critical to holding the majority, that every senator running for re-election will need to spend a lot of time back home and at some point soon Senator Paul will have to make a decision on his future.”
Simultaneous campaigns are not unusual, except Kentucky has a law about it; Mr. Paul’s efforts to solve this conundrum have spent a certain amount of political capital, and it seems to be tarnishing his brand:
One Kentucky Republican operative said that unlike Sen. Marco Rubio — the Florida Republican also from the class of 2010 who placed “all his chips on the table” by opting against a run for re-election — the perception is that Paul has relegated his re-election to merely a “second choice.”
“The Senate seat in Kentucky should not be a consolation prize,” the Republican said.
An aide to Paul who asked not to be identified said that with the Kentucky statewide races on the ballot this fall, the 2016 campaign is not likely to start until November at the earliest. But, nonetheless, the aide added that Paul — who will hold five Senate fundraising events over the next several days — has a Senate finance and a communications team in place, and that the campaign will soon begin hiring grass-roots organizers.
Still, though, Roll Call notes political science professor Scott Lasley, a Republican on the State Central Committee, who suggests the damage is not yet so great. “I don’t think he’s continuing to do tons of damage until something changes,” he explained, “like if someone gets in a primary or a Democrat gets in.”
And as to that, the buzz seems to surround State Auditor Adam Edelen. Last month, Rachel Maddow pointed to his speech at Fancy Farm, and a few weeks ago local conservative commentator John David Dyche, noting how rarely he agrees with the msnbc host, specifically echoed her praise, while wincing at Edelen’s efficacy. “Edelen could have made the same point without alienating potential GOP supporters,” Dyche writes in defense of Republican devotion to Ayn Rand trumping Republican devotion to Jesus Christ. “A 2016 Senate bid is shaping up well for Edelen, but he still has some hard work to do in winning reelection as auditor. It will help him in both if he stops attacking Republicans.” If the words of Mitch McConnell’s biographer are any indication, perhaps Maddow has a point when she describes Mr. Edelen as “the Democrat who Kentucly Republicans are really most afraid of”.
To the other, she was wrong about the idea that Mr. Paul would quit the presidential race that weekend in late August. According to Roll Call:
Lasley added that one possible Democratic contender — Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen — could mitigate some of that damage in a way. This fall, Edelen is making his case to voters about why they should give him another term as auditor, which Lasley said could cause some “awkwardness” for him if he were to launch a Senate campaign before November or criticize Paul for following his own back-up plan.
“[Edelen] can’t just come up the next week after the election and say, ‘Thanks for re-electing me, I’m running for U.S. Senate now,'” he said. “That takes a bit of that heat off.”
And it should be reminded that Kentucky and Democrats are not an impossible combination in a statewide election; the outgoing governor and his likely successor are both Democrats. As radio host and Democratic Congressional candidate Matt Jones put it, “Rand Paul is busy; he has a presidential race to lose.” Republicans in the Bluegrass State seem painfully aware of this proposition, and it really does seem to be causing some anxiety.
Image note: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP)
Dyche, John David. “Adam Edelen’s next stop the Senate?” The Advocate Messenger. 3 September 2015.
Maddow, Rachel. “Rising Democratic star puts Rand Paul on early defense”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 21 August 2015.
Yokley, Eli. “Paul’s Stagnant Presidential Campaign Causes Concerns for Senate Race”. Roll Call. 22 September 2015.
Youngman, Sam. “Kentucky Republicans vote to give Rand Paul a caucus, if the money is there. The Herald-Leadder. 22 August 2015.